Ben & Jerry’s Israel Boycott Could Cost Unilever

After Ben & Jerry’s, a Vermont-based ice-cream company and wholly owned subsidiary of global consumer-products giant Unilever that prides itself on its progressive politics, announced Monday that it is cancelling its license with its Israeli affiliate, a move that amounts to a boycott of Israel, a wave of legal and regulatory issues for its Dutch-American parent was triggered, the Wall Street Journal reported. Ben & Jerry’s operates in Israel through a licensee, an Israeli company that has been with the brand for 30 years and operates one of its few foreign manufacturing facilities. After a social media pressure campaign from anti-Israel leftists, the company insisted that the Israeli licensee not sell ice cream in parts of Jerusalem, including the Jewish Quarter, and the West Bank, much of which is controlled by the Palestinian Authority and parts of which are under Israeli civil jurisdiction. Israeli law bars boycotts of Israeli citizens, Jewish or Arab, based on their location, so Unilever cancelled the Israeli Ben & Jerry’s entirely because it wouldn’t engage in a secondary boycott. Because Ben & Jerry’s is a wholly owned subsidiary of Unilever, the latter is responsible for its boycott. In the past eight years, 33 American states have passed laws that restrict government contracting or investing in companies that boycott Israeli people or businesses. This means that, in about a dozen states, state employees’ pension funds will be barred from investment in Unilever. In many other states, government entities will be barred from buying goods or services from Unilever. Moreover, since the 1970s, federal law has banned U.S. companies from participating in foreign boycotts of any country. If it turns out that the Palestinian Authority contacted Ben & Jerry’s or its officers and asked them to boycott, criminal penalties would be available against Unilever. Read more.